By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — It’s tough for a collection of third, fourth and fifth-stringers to cohesively run an NFL offense. Thursday night’s preseason finale between the Patriots and Giants was evidence of that.

But, in the midst of the Patriots’ 17-12 barn burner down in New Jersey, rookie quarterback Danny Etling did manage to produce a highlight-worthy play.

To be fair, that play was deeply, deeply aided by a horrific breakdown by the Giants’ defense. But, hey, playing defense is difficult too.

The play came late in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots leading 10-6 and 4:11 remaining in the game. Etling faked an inside handoff, kept the football for himself, and then he was off to the races.

See for yourself:

“I just took off down the sideline, it was a great job by the running back and the offensive line to sell it and make sure that there was nobody there to make a tackle on me,” Etling said after the game. “I think I looked back about seven times, and then finally crossed into the end zone. That was just a great play by our entire offense, and a great call by Coach [Chad O’Shea].”

Etling was asked if he’s ever had that kind of run in a game before.

“I’ve never really run that far before in my life,” he said.

Head coach Bill Belichick was all smiles after the game, and admitted that his scouting report on Etling might need some adjustments.

“That was one of the most exciting plays I’ve seen in preseason, I must say,” Belichick said. “Great call by Chad. And Danny is maybe a little faster than we thought he was.”

It wasn’t the first time that Etling showed off some impressive speed, as he rushed for 115 on five carries before losing a couple of yards on two kneel-downs. He also looked mighty fast when he sprinted into the open field to block for running back Khalfani Muhammad.

A seventh-round draft choice out of LSU, Etling threw for 157 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions, completing 18 of his 32 passes. But it was that run that he — and his teammates — will be remembering from an otherwise forgettable football game.

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